Head Hunger – Are You Really Hungry?

Have you ever found yourself looking in the fridge or eating shortly after a large meal, almost as if you hadn’t just eaten? We all have once in a while and for most of us, this phenomenon is called head hunger. Head hunger is a mental, rather than physical, hunger that can be triggered by a variety of factors. Common causes can include emotions, visual stimulation and dehydration.

There is what looks a delicious meal or amazing sweet treat in just about every food advertisement – on TV, in a magazine or even in the grocery store itself. Advertising and marketing can certainly make you head hungry, even if you are physically full. Ultimately, the purpose of the commercial is to make you think about food and get you to buy the product. Dehydration is another cause of “mistaken hunger.” Sometimes we eat when we are actually thirsty.

So what to do?

  • First, take a minute to think if you’re really hungry. Think about the last time you ate, wait ten minutes and then see if you still want those sweets.
  • Second, work on your portion sizes. Food portions are always increasing. Many times they are two or three times the size of a recommended serving. Restaurant patrons want their money’s worth, but sometimes that comes at the expense of their waistline. You might want to get a box before you eat and put half the portion away – keep it for lunch the next day. You may not feel full, but then again, feeling full all the time isn’t a good thing.
  • Eat 5-6 small meals a day versus 3 large ones. This will smooth out sugar spikes and drops and keep you from feeling ravenous at any time.
  • Finally, make sure you are well hydrated. The average bariatric patient will need to consume at least 64 ounces of water each day to remain fully hydrated.

Emotions are also a big trigger of head hunger. Feelings such as boredom, loneliness or sadness are stressful and we comfort ourselves with food. Happy times often call for celebratory food too. Unfortunately, eating when your body isn’t hungry only adds extra calories to your diet and does little to relieve our problems. Even a few bites, several times a day, can cause a great deal of weight gain (or hinder your weight loss) over the long-term.

So always take a second and think about what you’re eating and why you are eating it. You’ll be much more successful after surgery as a result.

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